The Unlikely Ingredient You Should Be Adding To Risotto

Risotto walks a fine line between gourmet and comfort food. That blend of soothing carbs, creamy texture, and a sophisticated blend of flavors. The simplicity and texture make it a perfect base for "luxury" ingredients like wild mushrooms, asparagus, wine, seafood, and even expensive spices like saffron, if you are making a classic Risotto Alla Milanese.

Rice has been part of Italian cuisine ever since the Moors introduced it to Italy in the 13th century, according to Italy Magazine. Rice may seem humble, but its versatility earned it a place within so many of the world's great cuisines. The Italian technique of slow simmering the rice in a little broth or stock using the rice's starch to make it seem deceptively creamy. While you may start with a little butter and add some grated cheese, making risotto actually requires more patience and cooking technique than rich dairy products or oils.

If you want to impress, making a dreamy smooth risotto does the trick. But what do you do if you get started only to realize you don't have any white wine or white wine vinegar on hand? Chances are, you already have another unexpected ingredient on your spice rack.

A fragrant baking staple in your risotto?

You may have enjoyed Risotto Alla Milanese which features saffron. Saffron is expensive since it is difficult to harvest enough, per Brittanica. If you are an avid baker, you may have another expensive aromatic flavoring in your kitchen already. Like saffron, pure vanilla is also costly since harvesting vanilla beans is also labor intensive, per Southern Living. Vanilla also adds a touch or rich decadence that is right at home in risotto.

You may think of vanilla as a dessert flavoring, but unsweetened vanilla can also highlight earth, sweet smelling ingredients like mushrooms, squash, and even seafood. Taste of Home, and the LA Times both have featured savory risotto using vanilla. Taste of Home recommends replacing wine with a mixture or broth and one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Or if you are a traditionalist and prefer your vanilla in dessert, you could try Jaime Oliver's example and make the sweet vanilla and white chocolate risotto recipe featured in his cookbook "Jamie's Dinners."